At the Baselworld 2011 trade show Hublot, a brand that is known for its radical approach to conspicuous consumption, has presented a somewhat unexpected take on the concept of invisible opulence. I am talking about the ultra-luxury Hublot Big Bang Black Caviar (Ref. 346.CX.1800.BR): a high-jewelry piece that has every square millimeter of its surface paved with glossy black ceramic blocks.
With its case, crown, and even the dial made entirely of ceramic, the Big Bang Black Caviar is the first watch ever to use the scratch-resistant and lightweight material to such an extent. Those who keep an eye on the still-young Swiss brand probably immediately noticed that the new timepiece is coming in the footsteps of the famous Black Caviar Bang one-off that was released a couple of years ago as the watchmaker’s tour de force.
This time, there is no tourbillon here and the self-winding Caliber HUB 1112 that animates it is a deliberately simple mechanism with its standard three hands and a date (as far as I understand, the mechanism is based on the well-known Sellita SW300 ebauche,) however the ceramic surfaces are designed, cut, beveled and polished in order to remind you of (or to simply imitate) the hundreds of baguette black diamonds from the super-exclusive timekeeper that retailed at exactly one million dollars.
Adding a couple of extra words about the movement, I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed by its blatant lack of refinement. While I understand that they probably tried to develop a finish that looks extremely high-tech and, well, different from the rest of the crowd with their inevitable permutations of Geneva stripes, circular graining, and all the usual stuff, I still think that they could have done better making the mechanism more elegant: we have seen numerous examples (I am thinking primarily about Porsche Design and Panerai, of course) when deliberately simple finish looked way cooler than lavishly hand-engraved calibers by incumbent brands, such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantine.
Case & Strap
The high-polished glitter of the 41-millimeter case is perfectly matched with the strap, which is made of glossy black alligator leather stitched on black rubber. As always, the strap is where things get complicated as long as it develops first signs of wear: Hublot uses the proprietary strap-locking system and you will probably be forever enslaved by the brand when it comes to replacement straps. Well, maybe that’s not a bad thing unless Hublot suddenly decided to go out of business, eh?
While I had rather mixed feelings regarding the original Black Caviar model, I must say that I like the ceramic version. Although this version will, too, be expensive, there is a lot less of conspicuous consumption in it and a bit more of a good taste.
See also: Breitling Montbrillant 01 Chronograph
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 3/5
Nighttime Legibility: 1/5
Value for Money: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Hublot Big Bang Black Caviar (Ref. 346.CX.1800.BR) specification
Price: $11,000 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Caliber Hublot HUB 1112 (based on Sellita SW300-1,) Swiss Made
Movement decoration: Skeletonized black rotor, machine-brushed bridges
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Power reserve: 42 hours
Size: 41.00 mm
Hands: Steel, open-worked
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brilliant black “glossy” alligator strap stitched on black rubber
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective coating